Dangerous Compassions

farm thoughts, goats, community, trusting people

Ming and I were headed south to LA to stay with friends two nights before returning home to Las Vegas.  We were taking our time and stopped north of Santa Barbara so Ming could rest. 

We pulled over on this road with huge eucalyptus trees.  I looked at strips of loose bark falling off the trunks, looked at leaves eaten on the edges, looked at seed pods.  Roadside deep with leaf litter and shed bark, like no one had cleared it away in many many years.

Then I was walking down the street and came upon a field with goats in it.  I liked the mama with baby best.  The mama nudged the baby until it stood on long, shaky legs.  The goats were very cute.   I talked to them.  They backed away a little, not approaching me for food or affection.

I was thinking about animals, gender, how nasty billy goats can be, friends who raised goats, lots of stories and experiences with goats.  Was the baby ok–it wasn’t newborn but seemed to walk kind of poorly.  Other baby goats I’ve seen, over the years.  How animals are treated, around here.

Lots of double standards.  I told my friend how at the pier, the birds are protected, but the fish, people catch them and kill them all day.  Why is that–the bird is valuable to the point of legal protection, but the fish is to catch and kill.  My friend used some logic to explain, maybe plentifulness of fish and fewer birds, but I think a lot of it is custom. 

How pet animals are sacred, but killing and eating other mammals is perfectly fine.  We could make up some explanations, but I don’t think it actually makes sense.

I got a newsletter from a farm where some friends lived, and they have a picture of slaughtering chickens on the cover.  I wondered why.  It wasn’t graphic, yet the situation disturbs me–the smiling humans in their places, the chicken on the stump. 

Killing animals can be glorified, and I don’t get it.  Like, “Hey, we are doing this authentic, ancient, self-sufficient thing–admire us,” but I don’t see the glory in it, at all.  Bloody, loud, painful.  An animal’s terror for a special food you can eat.  That could never be worth it, for me.

I told Ming about the photo, and he asked, “Is there a content warning?”  I said, “No, it’s right on the cover!”

Maybe it’s good to be open about what you’re doing, if you’re going to do that?  Was it my invitation to divorce myself from that farm, a sign?  I’ve felt weird about it from the beginning.  It’s very beautiful there.  So many experiences–

an important conversation in a forest that changed the direction of my life, hurting my foot by stepping on a nail by some certain garden beds, a visitor who followed me around trying to convince me of something about God, being praised for picking a lot of ripe strawberries, a morning panic attack, some singing, an argument Ming and I had in whispers, sorting seeds, a conversation with a nice stranger who ended up becoming a friend in a teeshirt that depicted Minnesota ducks.  A huge art depicting a galaxy, a piano that needed to be tuned, when I took the bread outside to thaw and shooed the birds from eating it, flies, a private meeting, a phone call, a group photo, a prayer. 

Lots of discomfort, confusion, fear, longing for community and ease but not finding it, trying to feel ok but not feeling ok.  Concern about money, vehicles, other technology, fires, plant destruction, wellbeing of animals, leadership, needing more farmers.  Questions of religion, what makes a good community, what hard work is, the perceived usefulness and un-usefulness of crazy people like me.  Broken down buildings, a treacherous staircase, the place where they used to make the special candles. 

The farm is changing hands, and I don’t know what it means to me.  A field where I planted seeds very close together, a cat who was supposed to eat mice, ideas for how to make the workflow better with animal manure–I thought they should put it in a cart and haul it up into a forest, dump it there, and come back months later to haul the composted material down to the garden beds.  Ming has a permaculture design certificate and I don’t.

I always thought requiring the other workers to be Christian was a bad idea because it was so limiting, and I couldn’t decide whether it was too unnecessarily narrow, or if it was just honest about a need.  Who can we pray with and live with.  It can be hard for me to decide stuff like that–what’s too demanding.  But the Christianity requirement kept us from ever living there, which is great because I think it would have been horrible for me.  The isolation of that farm, being so far away, that county, the bumpy dirt roads, too much required of me.

Things are always changing.  Coming home, I want to know what happened while we were away.  Is everything ok, do you still love us.  My friend tells me we can rely on certain things here, and I want to believe her.  Ming asked years ago, if he died, would they take care of me–they said yes.  I want to trust, but it’s really hard to trust people.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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